On Tuesday night, Aaron Neville brought his band to Havana New Hope, and it was a seemless operation from downbeat — there wasn’t a missed note, out of place beat, quick tempo or flawed harmony to be found in the entire set.
It was great to hear and see, and although there was nothing risky with lots of standards, Aaron’s voice was in fine shape despite his 70+ years. His falsetto was unique and perfect; his bass notes still rumbled, and he still slid effortlessly from one octave to another, with his signature trill and catch in phrasing.
And I forgot just how big he is. The guy has forearms and shoulders like a fullback.
From the opening note of the first song (Ben E. King’s Stand By Me) to the immaculate encore ending (the Mickey Mouse Club Theme Song) the material was a pleasure to listen to.
With the exception of Charles Neville on sax (Aaron’s 68-year-old “little brother”) the six-piece band were a fine set of relatively unknown musicians and were slicker than frozen cow poo. Led by David Johnson on Fender bass, who played a wonderful bottom end and was a delightful show of his own, Earl Smith Jr. on drums, Eric Struther on guitar and the hulking Michael Goods on keys played flawlessly behind Aaron, while delivering perfect-five part harmony and had a good time doing it, something often missing from hired-gun back-up musicians.
The hour-and-a-half set included his signature Tell It Like It Is, Everybody Plays the Fool, Cry Cry Cry, Amazing Grace, Goodnight Sweethearts and Please Stay (which included a wonderful wet reed sax solo by brother Charles).
Tickets were $75, and well worth it. The place was packed, and the audience followed the show with rapt attention. Sight lines were excellent, and the sound and lights, as usual at a Dave Maida production, were fully professional and Havana’s staff did another fine job on production. One could not ask for a more delightful time.
Havana will host the Outlaws on Friday night; Rusted Root with Von Gray on Saturday is sold out.